Pic: Alistair Mackay
Enthusiastic groups of LGBT spectators took a public stand against Nigeria’s new horror anti-gay law at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday.
The small but visible pockets of protesters among the large sell-out crowd waved rainbow flags and gay flags of South Africa during the Chan match between Nigeria and South Africa.
They also held up placards with messages such as “no penalties for gay rights Nigeria!”, “We’re cheering for you gay Nigerians” and “Dear Nigeria, you can’t criminalise love”.
The protest wasn’t organised by any one group but evolved on social media platforms in the days ahead of the match.
“People were scattered all around the stadium,” Alistair Mackay, who took part in the demonstration, told Mambaonline. “We saw rainbow flags and even a rainbow umbrella.”
Mackay said that “while there weren’t enough of us to make a big impact in the stadium, we got into the news, which was perfect and what we wanted”.
Various media outlets reported on the protest; a photograph making the front page of Die Burger newspaper with the headline “Gay laws under fire at soccer in the Cape”. A hash tag linked to the protest posted by Phumzile Van Damme, #StandUpForLove, also briefly trended on Twitter in South Africa.
Pic: Phumzile Van Damme
Mackay said that while he was initially a little wary because of the large number of Nigerians in the crowd, his group was not harassed in any way. “The vibe was fun. People were generally supportive,” he said.
“We hope that some LGBT Nigerians get to see that they have friends in South Africa. That we are supporting them and that the world is on their side,” he added.
While the football activists may have scored a goal by raising awareness about the plight of LGBT Nigerians, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana team had less success; they lost to the Nigerian Super Eagles 3-1.
The recently enacted Nigerian law outlaws same-sex marriages, same-sex relationships, public same-sex affection and LGBT clubs or organisations; with prison sentences of up to 14 years.
People who witness or aid a same-sex marriage and anyone who does not report LGBT people to the authorities also face a jail sentence. Gay sex is already illegal with a penalty of 14 years in prison.